April 7, 2018, 5:34 pm
The Lakers came into their matchup with Minnesota extremely short-handed, missing key players Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Isaiah Thomas. They had been able to remain competitive, even earning a victory over the Spurs on Wednesday, primarily due to the efforts of their frontcourt and in particular Kyle Kuzma, who was already playing through an ankle injury. The damn finally broke Friday night as Kuzma left the game in the third quarter after sustaining a sprained ankle and the Lakers crumbled, resulting in a final score of 113-96.
Brook Lopez kept Los Angeles in the game early on, scoring the Lakers’ first 15 points en route to a 15-14 start.
The Lakers held a 12-point lead after a 20-4 run towards the end of the second quarter, giving their fans hope that they may play spoiler to the Timberwolves.
However, the second half was a different story. Minnesota played with renewed energy and defensive focus, outscoring the Lakers by 10 points even before Kuzma was forced from the game. Overall, the third quarter was 29-15 in the Timberwolves’ advantage.
The fourth quarter was more of the same as the Lakers didn’t have the necessary remaining quality of players, energy or tenacity — losing the period by double-digits as well.
The Timberwolves were led by their backcourt duo of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, who were both recovering from their respective knee injuries. Butler, playing in his first game back from a 17-game absence, set the defensive tone for Minnesota in the second half, finishing the game with four steals to go along with 18 points, two rebounds and one assist on 7-of-10 shooting. He did show some rust at the charity stripe where he converted only 4-of-8 attempts.
Teague gave the currently point guard challenged Lakers fits all night, leading the Timberwolves with 25 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals while shooting 9-of-16 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from the line.
The Lakers continued to do a good job this season of limiting Karl-Anthony Towns’ scoring output, but he was excellent in other areas of the game, contributing 14 points, 11 rebound, four assists, two steals, three blocks and a game-high plus-30 rating.
Taj Gibson, on the other hand, continued to torment the Lakers to the tune of 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and a plus-19 rating while shooting 8-of-13 from the floor.
Los Angeles was led by Julius Randle, who chipped-in 20 points, 10 rebounds and two assists while knocking down 5-of-11 from the field and an impressive 10-of-10 from the free throw line. He did unfortunately lead the team with five turnovers and earn a minus-14 rating for the game.
Kyle Kuzma struggled in his 18 minutes before the leaving the game, going 1-of-6 from the floor for two points, three rebounds, one block and a whopping four turnovers.
Lopez only scored three more points after his first quarter outburst, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and a minus-14 rating on 7-of-10 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from the line. Perhaps it would have behooved the Lakers to rely on him more in a game when many of their starters struggled.
Josh Hart provided Los Angeles a nice lift of the bench with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Another positive bench contribution for the Lakers came from Ivica Zubac, who added 14 points and nine rebounds on 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line.
Key Stats and Observations
-There were a plethora of rebounds available as neither team shot well on Friday. The Lakers led the way with 63 rebounds compared to 55 for the Timberwolves. However, the Lakers conceded 18 offensive rebounds to Minnesota.
-For the season, Los Angeles leads the league in points in the paint. That was not the case on Friday as the Timberwolves crushed them in that regard, accruing a 62-44 edge in the key. Second-chance points and easy transition baskets off of turnovers were a contributing factor. .
-One glaring statistic was a drastic turnover differential between the teams with the Lakers committing 21 compared to only five for the Timberwolves. The corresponding 30-7 disparity in points off of turnovers was one of the pivotal factors in the loss.
-The Lakers were missing many of their leading playmakers resulting in only 16 assists vs. 25 for Minnesota.
-Los Angeles had an excellent night at the free throw line, converting 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) compared to 19-of-26 (73.1 percent) for Minnesota. They also had an advantage from long distance making 8-of-24 (33.3 percent) while the Timberwolves 8-of-26 (30.8 percent). The Lakers struggled from 2-point range making only 23-of-55 (41.8 percent) while the Timberwolves knocked down 35-of-74 (47.3 percent).
-The 2-point shooting attempts illustrates a crucial element in the loss: Due to the disparity in turnovers and offensive rebounds, Minnesota took 21 more shot attempts than the Lakers.
The Lakers host the Utah Jazz for a matinee game on Sunday.
Utah is one of the hottest teams in the league, having won 27-of-32 to ascend to the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings.
With the Jazz in rhythm and the Lakers missing key players, this promises to be a very tough matchup.
The Jazz backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell combined to go for 57 points on 20-of-37 shooting in the last meeting between the two teams, a 117-110 win for Utah this past Tuesday. The Lakers kept that game close by shooting 14-of-28 from 3-point range — they will need a similar effort to stay in contention on Sunday.